Ben Perreira

My head's dropbox.

Month: December, 2012


We all find motivation from different things. Some people look inside of themselves for a sense of satisfaction in doing something well. Others look to those around them as benchmarks above which they must rise.

I submit that the former is far superior to the latter, which is why this image makes me cringe. It reflects the self-justification required to do some of the shady things “entrepreneurs” (i.e. not creators, but schemers) do. The gentleman is appropriately faceless.


The problem with extrinsic motivation is that it is a moving target. If my motivation is to buy a 2013 BMW M5 so my former high school colleagues see that I’m successful, and I manage to buy one, what happens in 2016 when a new body style comes out? 

Maybe money is their motivation. Look at anyone who is rich AND happy and you will find someone who is not motivated by money. They are driven by a passion to do something really, really well. Steve Jobs is a convenient example of this. He was worth $4 billion when he died and he remained obsessive about anything that bore the Apple brand. You can be sure he would have been doing the same thing if Apple was showing zero returns (see: 2002).

Brands can learn from this as well. If a brand defines itself vis-a-vis its competition it will always be one step behind. Every brand has a story, or at least the ability to create one, that reflects its core identity. This core identity is what allows the brand to seamlessly pivot when competition changes.

Look at GE, one of the largest and most diversified brands in the world. It continues to be successful because buyers know when they buy GE products, they are getting a history of quality. It doesn’t matter is this is a light bulb or their massive stake in NBC.

The desire to do things well versus just do things is a defining characteristic of the intrinsically motivated. They have long term outlooks and sleep well at night knowing they are developing sustainable narratives.


The Secret

We dance ‘round in a ring and suppose, but the secret sits in the middle and knows. – Frost

Every few months Facebook announces changes to its privacy policy. Of course, none of use read this new policy so we assume it means Facebook is going to sell our info to evil corporations. Within 48 hours we are so consumed with what our friends are posting on Facebook that we no longer care, only to have the cycle repeat a few months down the road.

Now that Facebook owns Instagram it should not be a surprise that the mobile photo changer app would be looking to follow its parent’s monetization techniques. It announced yesterday that it would be making changes to its privacy to reactions akin to those common to Facebook changes. Aside from being the most effective way to determine which friends to avoid in real life, this is a shocking and offensive demonstration of sheep behavior.

Thus, Instagram had to release a statement today that it would not be selling our photos and essentially would be using the same formula Facebook uses with promotion of brand pages.

Your photos are safe. Facebook and its subsidiaries, like you, have no market for your grainy self-portraits and poorly lit food shots. Snap in peace.

The Diminishing Returns of Learning

We all remember diminishing marginal returns from our introduction to Econ in high school. At first, adding one unit of input generates more output than the previous unit did. Then, at a certain point, additional input units will result in less output.

Learning new things works the same way. I started playing paddle tennis this summer and was immediately hooked. I got to the point where I was playing early in the morning and again after work. My friends and I were bad at first, then we learned the rules, probably made up some of our own and by the fall every time we played we got better, but not incrementally better to the extent we saw during the first month.

In a past life I was a surf instructor. Though it can vary greatly depending on conditions, the greatest improvement new surfers see is in the first 10 hours of being in the ocean. They learn how to put on a wetsuit, wax a board, paddle out, pick waves, stand up and ride a wave. After over 15 years I still learn new things every time I surf, but what I learn (sadly) seldom has a dramatic effect of how I surf going forward.

ImageThis simple graphical representation holds true for most things we learn: computer programs, languages, organizational cultures, cities and activities. We never stop learning, but the value we get from each new hour/session/day/month of learning diminishes after the early spike.

If it doesn’t hold true I no longer have a good excuse for having a short attention span.

For a later date – is breadth of knowledge preferable to depth of knowledge? Does what we learn in the long tail give us the most value?


In dictatorships and monopolies the people do as they are told. They buy the product they are given and figure out a way to stomach it. Innovation is discouraged, overshadowed by the status quo.

In competitive markets it is important to be innovative and message that creativity. Consumers of information and products like to know they have the greatest new thing. It is easier for you to tell them than it is for them to figure out what that thing is in each category they consume. 

However, if you message innovation without actually doing anything, a fluid market will call your bluff. Caveat venditor.